The Joseph Grimberg Outstanding Young Advocate Award comes home

20 Sep 2021

Drew & Napier is pleased to share that Director Mahesh Rai is the winner of this year’s Joseph Grimberg Outstanding Young Advocate Award. Instituted by the Singapore Academy of Law and Drew & Napier, the award honours the memory of Mr Joseph Grimberg and recognise young lawyers who demonstrate the same professional excellence and high ethical standards that he embodied. A panel of five judges chaired by Judge of Appeal, Steven Chong found Mahesh to be the worthiest choice for this annual award.

Mr Joseph Grimberg (1933 — 2017) was a highly-regarded former Judicial Commissioner and Senior Counsel in Singapore. He was viewed as one of our finest and most respected legal experts with exceptional leadership in the legal profession. He helmed Drew & Napier for 20 years from 1967 to 1987 and was appointed a Judicial Commissioner of the Supreme Court in 1987. In 1989, he re-joined Drew & Napier as a Consultant till his demise in 2017.

The Joseph Grimberg Outstanding Young Advocate Award recognises young lawyers in good standing who exhibit professional excellence, service to the profession and the bar; service to the community; and/or a reputation for or the advancement of legal ethics and professional responsibility. In addition, they should also uphold the values associated with Mr Grimberg which are humility, class and grace. The first award was in 2018.

Mahesh is a Director with Drew & Napier’s Dispute Resolution department. He has an active litigation and arbitration practice with a particular focus on complex, high-value and cross-border disputes. He is also the Deputy Head of our Construction & Engineering practice and advises on front-end construction matters.

He has appeared as counsel in the High Court, Court of Appeal and in international arbitrations, often across top lawyers, Senior Counsel and Queens Counsel. Some of Mahesh’s notable matters include representing a Korean multinational in an UNCITRAL arbitration against an Indian state-owned company over claims amounting to US$210 million arising out of the construction of a petrochemical plant, an international contractor in arbitrations against the Government of Maldives for claims amounting to over US$155 million relating to expropriation of land and delays to a project to construct public housing over 10 islands, and a leading telecommunications company in two complex arbitrations over a WIMAX network rollout in an Asian country.

An advocate for pro bono work, Mahesh regularly acts as pro bono defence counsel under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS) for impecunious accused persons. He acts as Lead Counsel in capital offence cases under the Legal Assistance in Capital Offences (LASCO) scheme. In addition, Mahesh represents victims who appear as civil parties before the hybrid Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Mahesh also works with HOME (Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics) Singapore to assist migrant workers who have slipped through the cracks in the system in the sense that they do not qualify for legal aid and have no money to engage their own lawyers.  

Clients praise Mahesh for being “a first-rate litigator”, “an excellent disputes lawyer and a master strategist with a deserved reputation for solving complex issues” and a lawyer who “is quick on his feet, pays attention to detail and is clear and concise in his explanations”. He is consistently ranked in several international legal publications. The Asia Pacific Legal 500 recommends Mahesh for Dispute Resolution, International Arbitration, Projects & Energy, White-Collar Crime and Construction (2021 edition). He won the Young Lawyer of the Year Award at the Asian Legal Business (ALB) SE Asia Law Awards 2019. He is ranked as a Future Leader in Arbitration by Who’s Who Legal in 2021 and 2020 and a Future Leader in Investigations from 2018 to 2020, and by the Global Arbitration Review in 2016. Asialaw ranked him as a Leading Lawyer in Dispute Resolution & Litigation in 2017 and 2018. ALB identified Mahesh as an outstanding young lawyer in the “40 under 40” survey in 2018 and the Singapore Business Review selected Mahesh as one of the most influential lawyers under 40 in 2017. In 2014, Mahesh was selected by the Supreme Court to be placed in the Young Amicus Curiae list and he appeared as amicus curiae in a High Court matter involving money laundering. He also received the Top Criminal Legal Aid Scheme Volunteer Award 2014 presented by the Singapore Chief Justice for pro bono lawyers who have represented the highest number of indigent accused persons in criminal proceedings.

On receiving the award, Mahesh said, “I am very honoured to receive this award. I could not have achieved this without the mentorship from Mr Jimmy Yim, SC and the many opportunities he has given me. He took time to explain things to me and walk me through his thought processes and plans. I also credit my pro bono work for making me the advocate that I am today; these cases offered me the early opportunity of developing my skills whilst helping others.

Mr Jimmy Yim, SC, Chairman of Drew & Napier, his mentor said, “I am happy for Mahesh and am very proud that he has received the award which has come home. He is an exceptionally talented lawyer in Drew and I am confident that we will see him shine even more brightly in the coming years ahead.”

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